Introduction to Hydraulic Fracturing -- Potential Economic, Environmental Impact: Society’s concern for the environment requires that we Catholics examine our own stewardship of God’s creation and our responsibility to those who come after us. Echoing numerous appeals from the Holy See and U.S. Catholic bishops in this regard, we have a need to take seriously the need to educate and raise questions about new methods of drilling in Northeast Ohio which have the promise of developing jobs, but also have the prospect of damaging the environment for future generations. In this regard, Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has said: “Ecological questions highlight the need to achieve a greater harmony both between measures designed to foment economic development and those directed to preserving the ecology, and between (state), national and international policies. Economic development, moreover, needs to take into consideration the integrity and rhythm of nature, because natural resources are limited. And all economic activity that uses natural resources should also include the costs of safeguarding the environment into the calculations of the overall costs of its activity.” What is Fracturing? Hydraulic fracturing causes the development of fractures in a rock layer through the use of highly- pressurized fluids. Hydraulic fractures form naturally, as in the case of veins or dikes, and are means by which gas and petroleum from source rocks may migrate to reservoir rocks. Energy companies can attempt to accelerate this process in order to release petroleum, natural gas, coal seam gas, or other substances for extraction, via this technique, induced hydraulic fracturing, often shortened to fracking or hydrofracking. While fracturing has been around since the mid 1940s, the new methods, introduced in the 1990s, use high-volume hydraulic fracturing. This is a horizontal fracturing that is used in the completion of tight gas and shale gas wells; high-volume hydraulic fracturing typically uses as much as five million gallons of water, with substantial chemical mixtures per well. This latest practice has come under scrutiny internationally, with some countries suspending it, or even banning it completely. Fracturing was first performed in 1947, though the current fracking technique was first used in the late 1990s in the Barnett Shale in Texas. The energy from the injection of a highly-pressurized fracking fluid creates new channels in the rock which can increase the extraction rates and ultimate recovery of fossil fuels. Why the Concern? High-volume horizontal fracturing is being used to access oil and gas reserves in the Utica and Marcellus Shales, which are hidden deep beneath the surface of the eastern part of Ohio. Recent seismic activity in Youngstown has been linked to this exploration. In 2007, water wells were found to be contaminated with methane gas, one home even exploding. We certainly acknowledge that hydraulic fracturing is an aid to the economy and job development; yet, we and our communities need and want to receive qualified, balanced education on this matter so that we can inform ourselves and ask the pertinent questions as citizens that can lead to a responsible regulation policy. Following and employing our Catholic principles of good stewardship and care for creation, we will be able to better ensure that as drilling proceeds, the rights of our region’s people and the proper care of the environment will be assured. Areas of Impact: Water The amount needed for fracking (5 million gallons/frac) Loss of well (aquifer) water through disruption or contamination Gas migration causing methane contaminated water The fate of the produced water (“treated” at POTWs) Degradation of water quality in local streams and rivers Degradation of drinking water quality (need to purchase bottled water) Land usage Large amount of acreage needed for well pads and impoundments As long as a well can be “restimulated”, the well pad will remain active Leased areas (former private and public lands) become restricted access Public lands and parks no longer “public” as they are off limits due to safety Exposure to toxic chemicals (spills, aquifer contamination) Fracking fluids Produced water contaminated with organics, salts, heavy metals, and NORMs Failed or improper casings lead to aquifer contamination Traffic and road degradation Significant increase in trucks and vehicles cause road and bridge deterioration Trucks may exceed weight and height limits Noise Heavy equipment, increased traffic, Low frequency sounds during fracking Compressors and compressor stations Air pollution Increased vehicle traffic Well flaring Release of VOC’s from well installations (condensate tanks are vented by design) Compressor stations Well blow outs Property devaluation Mortgages and home equity loans jeopardized by presence of wells Mine subsidence insurance compromised or negated Land owner ultimately responsible for taxes and environmental damage EMS and emergency procedures Evacuation plans must be in place for populated areas (a single well blow out can affect more than 1 mile radius) EMS, police and fire must be trained to handle emergencies (well and impoundment fires, evacuations) Increases taxes to cover infrastructure damage, additional public services and security.
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